Rwanda Launches World’s First On-Demand Emergency Service Using Unmanned Drones
The drones and delivery service are built and operated by Zipline, a California-based robotics company. Rwanda’s drone delivery service will initially focus on blood, an international partnership between UPS®, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Zipline will help the country quickly expand the types of medicines and lifesaving vaccines that can be delivered.
MISSISSAUGA, ON, Oct. 14, 2016 /CNW/ – Today, Rwandan President Paul Kagame launched the world’s first national drone delivery service during a ceremony in the country’s centrally located Muhanga District. Starting today, the Rwandan government will begin using drones to make up to 150 on-demand, emergency deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country.
Rwanda’s national drone delivery program enables blood transfusion clinics across the Western half of the country to place emergency orders by cell phone text message. The orders are then received by Zipline at its distribution center located in the country’s Muhanga region where the company maintains a fleet of 15 drones, called Zips.
Each Zip can fly up to 150 km round trip—even in wind and rain—and carry 3.3 lbs. of blood, which is enough to save a person’s life. Zips take off and land at the distribution centre, and make deliveries by descending close to the ground and air dropping medicine to a designated spot called a “mailbox” near the health centres they serve. Zipline will make 50-150 emergency flights a day to 21 transfusion clinics across the Western Half of Rwanda and can fulfill orders in around 30 minutes.
Rwanda plans to expand Zipline’s drone delivery service to the Eastern half of the country in early 2017, putting almost every one of the country’s 11 million citizens within reach of instant delivery of lifesaving medicines.
The commercial partnership between Rwanda and Zipline is expected to save thousands of lives over the next three years. Through this effort, Rwanda is leading the world by using cutting-edge technology to leapfrog the absence of road infrastructure and to provide cutting edge healthcare access to all its 11 million citizens.
The work in Rwanda is being further supported by an international partnership between Zipline, UPS and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Thanks to a $1.1 million (USD) grant from the UPS Foundation, the partnership will study Rwanda’s blood drone delivery operation with an eye towards helping the country quickly expanding the types of medicines and lifesaving vaccines that can be delivered.
Leveraging UPS’s extensive global supply chain and logistics expertise, Gavi’s deep public health and vaccine knowledge, and Zipline’s cutting edge last-mile delivery technology, the partnership hopes to use the knowledge gained in Rwanda and export it around the world.
Over the course of the next year, and with the support of the partnership with UPS and Gavi, Zipline plans to expand drone delivery services to countries across Africa and the Americas. Additionally, Zipline recently announced plans at the White House to expand its service to the United States, where it will serve Indian reservations in Maryland, Nevada, and Washington State.